American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise
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Personal trainers have a wide range of options for servicing clients, whether individually or in small groups. How you will deliver your services will be influenced by what type of service or combination of services you would like to deliver, the clients you are serving and their preferences, and your skillset.

While you may be initially drawn or suited to one type of delivery over another, familiarizing yourself with what is possible will help you consider what could be possible in the future. Let this information set the stage for exploring all the ways you can get people moving.

First, let’s discuss where a personal trainer might be located physically while providing a service for their client(s):

In-Person

Virtual

Hybrid

The personal trainer is physically in the same location with a client when providing a service. The personal trainer is not physically in the same location with a client when providing a service. The personal trainer may choose to utilize a combination of virtual and in-person delivery options while providing a service.

In-person

Whether it is providing service individually or to a small group, any work associated with the training of clients has often been conducted face to face. Traditionally, we think of settings such as commercial health clubs, personal-training gyms, fitness studios or clients’ homes for conducting in-person consultations, assessments, or exercise sessions, but it is also possible to meet clients in settings such as parks (with the proper permits), corporate fitness centers, campus recreation facilities or the fitness room at a housing complex.

When a personal trainer and client are physically occupying the same space, there is an opportunity for hands-on correction, spotting, and on-the-spot adjustments based on observing the client’s movement mechanics, reaction and adaptation to various exercises, and exertion levels.

When face to face, the opportunity to witness a client’s verbal and nonverbal communication can aid in connecting with the client and, if in small groups, connecting clients to one another. With increased facetime, a trainer may more easily learn the best way to adapt training sessions to increase confidence and feelings of success and promote exercise adherence.

Virtual

Let’s take a look at how various personal-training services might be conducted differently if the trainer and client are working synchronously or asynchronously:

Synchronous 

Asynchronus

The personal trainer is present virtually while providing a service. The personal trainer is not present virtually while providing a service.

Working with a client individually or in small groups can also be conducted via a variety of virtual platforms, depending on your need and desire to interact with the client “live” or not, despite not being together in the same physical location.

Consultations

A consultation is a service in which a personal trainer collects various information about a client with the intent to help the client set goals or provide recommendations for a program.

A personal trainer may choose to collect information asynchronously via online forms, email or text messages, or other methods of completing digital “paperwork.” Digital responses offer a “paper trail” for both the personal trainer and client. A back-and-forth discussion may be needed for clarification or deeper understanding.

Synchronous consultations may be conducted using video conferencing. With video, the client and personal trainer can see one another, allowing for observation of verbal and nonverbal communication, which may provide additional input for appropriate goal setting or program design. If video conferencing is not possible, a phone call is another possibility for a synchronous consultation.

Assessments

While assessments may be conducted during a consultation, assessments are presented here as a separate type of session to articulate the differences between virtual delivery methods.

To conduct assessments asynchronously, a personal trainer would provide written or visual instructions for conducting the assessment, capturing any data needed (e.g., written results and observations, pictures, or video) and returning the data if necessary (e.g., hand deliver, email, or upload). As with the consultations being delivered this way, back-and-forth discussion may be needed for clarification or understanding of the results.

Synchronous assessments are conducted similarly to in-person assessments with the use of video-conferencing platforms.

Workouts

As with consultations and assessments, the personal trainer can supervise a workout via video-conferencing platforms and provide real-time feedback on form, motivation, and recommendations for making the experience exactly what the client needs.

It is also possible to deliver workouts or programs for a client or group of clients to follow without the trainer present. The workout can be delivered in written form (e.g., documents, PDFs, spreadsheets, email, or training-specific web or mobile applications). Or, a personal trainer may provide visual support (e.g., pictures or videos) via email (attachments or hyperlinks), documents, PDFs, or spreadsheets (embedded or hyperlinks), video-on-demand platforms, or training-specific web  or mobile applications.

Hybrid Model

Personal trainers may also consider combining in-person and virtual delivery options, as well as combining the synchronous and asynchronous options within the virtual category.

For example, a personal trainer could conduct a consultation, assessment and one workout in-person at the start of a program. Then, additional workouts could be delivered via a training app (asynchronous virtual) to be completed regularly and provide text check-ins to monitor progress. Additional in-person sessions could be scheduled at regular intervals to perform reassessments or update the program.

Likewise, personal trainers can create hybrid models within virtual-only delivery options. For example, the consultation and assessment could be conducted synchronously using FaceTime or a live-streaming service, while the workouts are delivered asynchronously via a training app.